NFTA Transporter

Friday, October 7, 2011

Executive Director Addresses Metro Fare Structure

Dear Community:

There has been a great deal of information in the press recently about the possibility of Metro adjusting fares and reducing service on routes that have extremely low ridership.

I'd like to take this opportunity to help set the record straight and present some relevant facts that are driving these difficult considerations.

Let me put to rest any misconception that the NFTA is “making money hand over fist.” That is clearly not the case. I truly wish it were. If it were true, we'd be having a far different conversation.

The reality is we are facing a $15 million deficit in our upcoming 2012-13 fiscal year that needs to be addressed, and it needs to be addressed now. Raising fares is never an easy decision, and if enacted, will be done as a last resort. We do truly understand the concerns of our riders, but some type of fare adjustments may be necessary to reduce this deficit. I think it's important to know how Metro is funded to fully understand how fare revenues fall far short of covering the cost of operating the bus and rail system.

Every dollar received in fare revenue only covers approximately 25 percent of the cost of operating that service. The remaining 75 percent is made up through state and local operating assistance, which unfortunately has been decreasing over the past few years.

Each year Metro receives funding in the form of State Transit Operating Assistance, which from 2009 to 2011 has been cut six separate times totaling $4.3 million. Locally, the percentage of the mortgage tax revenue we receive from the sale of property in Erie County has dropped to a 15-year low, further reducing funds available to Metro. At the same time our operating expenses have increased by over $7 million.

Ever increasing expenses and decreasing revenue is not a recipe for success. I fully understand that public transportation is a vital means of maximizing community mobility. I know that each day, thousands of western New Yorkers and visitors ride Metro to work, school, health care, shopping, recreation, tourist attractions and countless other destinations, and we want to continue making that a viable option.

I think it's also important to note that a majority of NFTA employees have not had a raise or a cost of living increase in two years and we have had a hiring freeze in place, except for Metro operators and essential safety personnel.

While I know it's of little consolation to our local customers, according to a survey conducted by the American Public Transit Transportation Association, Metro is not the exception, we are the rule, as nearly eight in 10 transit agencies across the country have cut service, raised fares or are considering either of those actions.

Please know that as we experience instability from our funding sources during a time when we are expected to serve an increasing ridership, our Board of Commissioners and staff will continue working diligently to find solutions to our budget pressures while still providing critical transportation service to connect people to jobs and support economic growth.


Kimberley A. Minkel

Executive Director